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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Battle of Valmy

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Battle of Valmy

Postby Connaught » September 1st, 2011, 6:22 pm

A FEW miles distant from the little town of St. Mene hould, in the northeast of France, are the village and hill of Valmy, and near the crest of that hill a simple monument points out the burial-place of the heart of a general of the French republic and a marshal of the French empire.

The elder Kellermann (father of the distinguished officer of that name, whose cavalry charge decided the battle of Marengo) held high commands in the French armies throughout the wars of the Convention, the Directory, the Consulate, and the Empire. He survived those wars, and the empire itself, dying in extreme old age in 1820. The last wish of the veteran on his death-bed was that his heart should be deposited in the battlefield of Valmy, there to repose among the remains of his old companions in arms who had fallen at his side on that spot twenty-eight years before, on the memorable day when they won the primal victory of Revolutionary France, and prevented the armies of Brunswick and the emigrant bands of Condé� from marching on defenceless Paris and destroying the immature democracy in its cradle.

The Duke of Valmy (for Kellermann, when made one of Napoleon's military peers in 1802, took his title from this same battle-field) had participated, during his long and active career, in the gaining of many a victory far more immediately dazzling than the one the remembrance of which he thus cherished. He had been present at many a scene of carnage, where blood flowed in deluges, compared with which the libations of slaughter poured out at Valmy would have seemed scant and insignificant. But he rightly estimated the paramount importance of the battle with which he thus wished his appellation while living, and his memory after his death, to be identified. The successful resistance which the raw Carmagnole levies and the disorganized relics of the old monarchy's army then opposed to the combined hosts and chosen leaders of Prussia, Austria, and the French refugee noblesse, determined at once and forever the belligerent character of the revolution. The raw artisans and tradesmen, the clumsy burghers, the base mechanics, and low peasant-churls, as it had been the fashion to term the middle and lower classes in France, found that they could face cannon-balls, pull triggers, and cross bayonets without having been drilled into military machines, and without being officered by scions of noble houses. They awoke to the consciousness of their own instinctive soldiership. They at once acquired confidence in themselves and in each other. and that confidence soon grew into a spirit of unbounded audacity and ambition. " From the cannonade of Valmy may be dated the commencement of that career of victory which carried their armies to Vienna and the Kremlin."(i)

One of the gravest reflections that arises from the contemplation of the civil restlessness and military enthusiasm which the close of the last century saw nationalized in France, is the consideration that these disturbing influences have become perpetual. No settled system of governm ent, that shall endure from generation to generation, that shall be proof against corruption and popular violence, seems capable of taking root among the French. And every revolutionary movement in Paris thrills throughout the rest of the world. Even the successes which the powers allied against France gained in 1814 and 1815, important as they were, could not annul the effects of the preceding twenty-three years of general convulsion and war.

In 1830, the dynasty which foreign bayonets had imposed on France was shaken off, and men trembled at the expected outbreak of French anarchy and the dreaded inroads of French ambition. They "looked forward with harassing anxiety to a period of destruction similar to that which the Roman world experienced about the middle of the third century of our era."(ii) Louis Philippe cajoled Revolution, and then strove with seeming success to stifle it. But, in spite of Fieschi laws, in spite of the dazzle of Algerian razzias and Pyrenee-effacing marriages, in spite of hundreds of armed forts, and hundreds of thousands of coercing troops, Revolution lived, and struggled to get free. The old Titan spirit heaved restlessly beneath " the monarchy based on republican institutions." At last, three years ago, the whole fabric of kingcraft was at once rent and scattered to the winds by the uprising of the Parisian democracy. and insurrections, barricades, and dethronements, the downfalls of coronets and crowns, the armed collisions of parties, systems, and populations, became the commonplaces of recent European history.


http://www.standin.se/fifteen14a.htm
Quis Separabit

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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby Mark » April 29th, 2012, 1:00 pm

Maybe of interest to some members - The Battle of Valmy by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet (1826) is one of four battle scenes that can be seen at The National Gallery or by clicking here!

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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » September 12th, 2013, 1:21 pm

A 3:30 hour 1989 film of the battle can be seen on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UO__qgUqYU

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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby jf42 » September 12th, 2013, 3:26 pm

Good production values in the style of Abel Gance but I am not sure there was a great deal of crossing of bayonets that day.
It seems the opposing troops didn't actually get within musket range.

That excerpt from Creasy's "15 Decisive Battles" is quite a romantic account. My recent reading suggested that it was "the disorganized relics of the old monarchy's army" who held the line in the face of the Prussian artillery while the levies were starting to slipping away and that the battle was really won by the very professional the Royal gunners who remained the core of French fire power throughout the French wars.

The allied commander Brunswick was remarkably pusillanimous. He expected the French to break when he sent his men forward as they had done previously and was disheartened when they maintained their position and held.

The idea that Kellerman clinched the battle by waving his hat and getting his men to shout patriotic slogans is interesting. However they weren't the only ones to believe in the power of revolutionary fervour. Once Carnot's machine started rolling forward in 1794 the myth of French invincibility kept growing. Drink appears to have been a factor on both sides...
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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby Mark » September 20th, 2013, 4:50 pm

I believe today is the 221st anniversary of the battle!

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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby Dominique T. » September 20th, 2013, 10:46 pm

The place as it looks like today.

http://napoleon-monuments.eu/Napoleon1er/Kellermann.htm

I have read somewhere that the urn with his hart was stolen.

You'll notice that the monument is surrounded with... English guns ! (made in 1820 in Manchester !)
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Re: Battle of Valmy

Postby jf42 » September 22nd, 2013, 2:04 pm

I also like the story of the 'original' windmill of Valmy that survived in situ until destroyed by a storm in 1999, and which turned out to have been brought from another region, and so was of an entirely different construction, as long ago as 1939.

Will our attitudes to history be revealed as errant to our descendants (Assuming the concept of history still exists)?
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